Walking towards the bus stop, I feel like a wet dog. I am soaking wet. The rain has been never ending and I am thoroughly fed up with it.
Once off the bus, I look around. When it’s dark and wet is when I feel the most vulnerable. I get my keys ready and my illegal pepper spray and start to power walk to my flat. It’s not even late, it’s 6.30pm on a Saturday night, but I know I can’t let my guard down, people get crazy at the weekends.
Once at my building’s entrance I put my keys in and have a quick look around before rushing in. Bill, my neighbour who lives opposite me, peaks out his window and we give each other a nod.
I’m home safe.
Bill is the only person on this earth who would miss me if anything happened to me. He lent me money after my, now deceased, witch of a mother took out debt in my name. They say your debts die with you, well not if they’ve been taken out in your daughter’s name. I must have only been 15 when she took it out, you are not supposed to be given credit you are 18, so she did it fraudulently.
Bill lent me the £3,000 to clear it so I didn’t ruin my credit rating by becoming bankrupt at the age of 16. Bill knew I wanted to be an accountant and I think it may have went against me. I could have disputed, it shown I wasn’t of age when it was taken out. Not wanting to draw attention to the fact that I was 15 and living alone until I turned 16 and not wanting to be embroiled in the case of getting it cleared, I just paid it. If I knew then how long and hard it would take me to clear the debt I’d reconsider that decision. I did not understand how much money that was at the time or how little I would earn.
I pay Bill back £10-£20 a week. Considering I average £20 a week spare after my bills (sometimes more, sometimes less), before food and things I am frugal as fuck to be able to pay that much back. I can go weeks with my only spending being my bus fair, and even then that is only if the weather is bad.
Next week is my final payment, but I won’t celebrate. I’ll put the money in to start an emergency fund. So, you know, I can sleep at night.
I work full time in a cafe for minimum wage. Because of my low wage I qualified for free education so I’m doing an online accounting course with the local college. I’ve been using the cafe experience to try and apply for better paying jobs like McDonalds or an admin assistant but there are not many local jobs like that in my area. I’ve applied for housing in another area, for job and safety reasons, but because I am childless and young fit and healthy and already have a home it puts me pretty low down on the list to get moved to funded housing. Extremely low.
I’ve been told it’s not worthwhile working, I should go on benefits and honestly - I think they are right - I think I would actually have more money. But I know that after a while my experience will help me get hired for a better paying job. Then, once I have my college qualifications AND work experience I will be more likely to get an accounting or bookkeeping type role that pays better.
THEN it will be worthwhile working.
Who would you hire? The person who has been consistently working or the one who hasn’t? I know who I would. I just need to put in a few years work and show I have work experience and a good work ethic.
If I studied full time with no full time job I would get a large bursary, but the bursary wouldn’t cover my bills, books and living. I need food. The cafe role feeds me during the day and I often get food to take home most nights, which I ALWAYS take. I am in no position to turn down free food. What I don’t eat, gets frozen. Everything. I usually get something for free most nights, a sandwich or a cake or some left over macaroni or baked potatoes. Usually something - except Fridays and Saturdays, as it’s so busy we sell out of everything.
So I need to work full time and do the course online. I ate leftover cafe food religiously until I had saved enough to buy an old second hand laptop. It’s not very cool, but it allowed me to enrol for an online course and it is so good to be able to do paperwork etc. online instead of going to the library for everything.
I couldn’t afford broadband so Bill lets me use his. He has a little OAP low data plan so I can only use it sparingly to upload coursework or check things online. Anything that needs a lot of time online I need to go to the library.
Once inside I take my jacket and shoes off and put them in the bathroom.
It’s cold and I can only afford the heating in emergency or freezing conditions. Wet and cold does not meet that criteria so I go and grab my oversized 50p charity shop wool jumper and take off my wet trousers hanging them up in the bathroom and put on leggings and pull on some jogging trousers and chunky wool socks over the top.
Also all 50p or £1 from the charity shop.
The only items I own brand new are underwear and socks. Sometimes I can get them brand new from the charity shop still in packaging.
Opening the freezer and having a look around, I decide on some 3 bean chilli and rice. When I’m not using leftovers, I batch cook dinners at the beginning of the month because it’s cheaper to make and also saves electricity. I can’t afford meat and I can’t waste electricity and water cooking every day. Even though I get food from the cafe I can’t rely on it as there are days at a time when I get nothing so I’ve learned the hard way to always have dinners in the freezer. I blast it in the microwave before sitting down and pulling out my past papers and practicing for my accounting exam at the end of the month. It’s a Saturday night, I’m 19, i’m at home with no friends, no money and i’m studying.
A usual Saturday night.
I have a very old basic mobile for emergencies that literally only does phone calls and Tetris and I only have about £5 on it, again for emergencies. I only ever use it to call my work if my bus breaks down and I’m going to be late or doctors or the electricity company etc.
I don’t have any friends to text anyway. I tried that before and got burned bad. Twice. One set of “friends” robbed me of the cash I had spent months saving and another set tried to get me on drugs and into some sort of sex circle. I’m lucky to have escaped relatively unscathed both times that I don’t want to roll the dice a third time so it’s best I just stay alone.
Safer that way.
When bad people find out no-one will miss you - bad things happen.
Bill is the only person I trust and he’s 79 and we barely speak two words to each other. We just have a mutual understanding that the world sucks and there are many shady people around here but we will have each other’s back. That’s it. That and I’ll take his dog if anything happens to him.
I pray nothing happens to him. Or that the dog dies before him. Or I die before the dog.
I cannot afford a dog.
Tomorrow I make plans to go to the supermarket. I need to make a list of what I will batch cook tomorrow and have a look at what I already have and what I need, but most importantly: what I can afford.
Once I’m done studying I take my flask I filled at work with boiled water and make a cup of tea. I use the rest of the water to fill a hot water bottle.
Before checking all my windows and putting my 5, yes 5, locks on my door (I’ve heard my door be tried during the night on multiple occasions so i take no chances). I then grab an extra blanket and head to bed. I’m off tomorrow and Monday so I finally relax.